Yamaha's v-30 & V-60 : The forgotten lovechild of Hamamatsu and Cremona

December 29, 2016 at 03:42 AM · I recently came across a violin you don't typically find in North America. A Yamaha V-30.

I know that presently there are a lot of inexpensive & higher end Yamaha violins on the market and I know their nomenclature well, but I had never encountered a violin called V-30 ( the v20g which retails at about 2000$ was the highest end violin from Yamaha I had ever tried). I shot off an email to Yamaha and got an interesting piece of background on these.

In 2000, Yamaha decided, after a 10 year pilot research project and preparation, to release a higher end (and their first) violin series. The Braviol V-30 & V-60. The violins would retail from about 3000 - 6000$ and would feature authentically aged wood, high end appointments, and curiously enough, be based off a Guarneri that Yamaha had spent months analyzing acoustically and physically in their labs. The objective was to dominate the intermediate & advanced pro-player market.

The violins unfortunately were a flop, although they were all handmade, wood selection was premier, beautiful oil varnishes, nice purfling, well carved scrolls and a fantastic flame back on all their instruments, the fact that you could get a decent luthier made violin with a probable appreciation for around that price made the Yamahas a complete miss.

It is rumored that with the money spent developing the Braviol series, Yamaha could have easily bought a few Guarneris of their own.

Despite all that, here it is, my v30 bought locally for a great deal, easily the best violin I have ever played

Restrung it and messed around with the sound post a bit, it's getting perfection pegs and a bit of fine tuning this week !

Replies (29)

December 29, 2016 at 06:06 AM · I passed on one of those before at a pawn shop and later regretted it! At the time I had no idea what they were, and having always gone for old luthier labels, a label from a big instruments company and the price (they wanted just $50 for it) made me think it was a VSO.

Can I ask how much you paid for it?

December 29, 2016 at 07:35 AM · They do acoustic treatment on their wood, which I don't know what they did. What amazed me was how consistent they can make the violins within same model number sound and play so closely. However, I often find that they have sterile quality, the highest model I tried were up to v20. May or may not be a good thing, though.

December 29, 2016 at 08:27 AM · I had the privilege of being invited to tour the Hamamatsu factory when Yamaha was bringing the V30 and V60 to market, in November 2001.

From the outlay of equipment I saw there, especially the sound analysis hardware and software, they were very serious in creating a very high-quality product.

December 29, 2016 at 01:03 PM · I paid an insanely low price for it in a pawn shop. Because the v30 is almost completely impossible to trace online (unless you speak japanese and type ????????? V-30) Most used instrument stores misidentify them as V3s and price them accordingly not understanding that these are expensive instruments.

The v30 I can tell you sounds nothing like a v20G which I played, I think that for the large part Yamaha has let their Chinese factories take care of their violin division nowadays, the v30s and v60s were made (per Yamaha) by specialized luthiers who worked on each violin individually from start to finish.

Anyways if you see another one of these in the wild out there, jump on it, I help with iT for a local violin gallery and you won't get this level of violin nowadays for under 5000$, although I shouldn't say that ... There is some stuff coming out of those chinese factories nowadays that is scary good for a few bills ...

December 29, 2016 at 01:45 PM · I can confirm that these instruments were completely made at the Hamamatsu factory, in the same complex where they also build their pianos.

Hamamatsu is also famous for their "unagi", i.e. freshwater eels, BTW.

December 29, 2016 at 02:31 PM · A little bit of feedback from Yamaha this morning,a lot of the technology that they later called A.R.E originated with the V30 & V60 violins, this includes aging and the use of Wood reformation technology such as precise control of temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure to basically have an instrument that looks new but with a wood with the molecular properties of instruments that have been played for years.

They also used sound simulation technology and vibration analysis to insure that every instrument carve on the v30s and v60s had identical resonance and timbre as the Guarneri they were based on.

Wowza ...

December 29, 2016 at 04:36 PM · " I help with iT for a local violin gallery and you won't get this level of violin nowadays for under 5000$, although I shouldn't say that ... There is some stuff coming out of those Chinese factories nowadays that is scary good for a few bills ..."

No, you can't really say that. The $5000 price range takes in a huge range of instruments, including many of very nice quality from various manufactures. I know of at least one European manufacture also using technology to check sound resonation properties of their builds. I'm sure they aren't alone. Not to mention there are ages old techniques for doing the same. Or does everyone really believe that the old violins that are such a huge subject of study these days simply stumbled on the right resonation qualities back in the day? No, they knew what they were doing back then as well, though perhaps lacking the technology to apply that understanding in the same way.

I should add that I have nothing against Asian made violins, or newer violins. I'm sure there are some superior newer violins coming out of Asia and Europe. But no one can realistically make blanket statements about instruments based on where or when they were made.

Frankly, any time I see people making such statements, I pretty much have to discount everything they say at that point. Unless they've somehow magically tested and benchmarked every violin produced everywhere, they clearly lack objectivity and lack credibility.

December 29, 2016 at 05:10 PM · Hi Leif, sorry maybe I didn't explain well. My friend who owns the gallery said that the qualities in finish and tone he saw and heard in the v30 I brought to setup is common for Violins he usually sells for closer to that price point if this helps clarify my point.

December 29, 2016 at 05:17 PM · Thanks for clarifying that Oren, and thanks for sharing your experience and images. Now everyone's going to be on the lookout for a V30 'find' of their own. :)

December 29, 2016 at 06:03 PM · I knew that eels were involved in wood seasoning because the violin is named like a submarine. Will remember the label in case I stumble upon one.

Thanks for the post!

p.s. Fox, I completely understand your decision; it's varnish looks like one of a chessboard made in former Soviet Union.

December 30, 2016 at 12:30 AM ·

December 30, 2016 at 02:24 AM · The violin is currently at Jules St Michel in Montreal getting some Perfection pegs, my pictures didn't do any justice to the finish as they were in a pawn shop under neon lighting, will post more pictures tomorrow !

Thanks for the awesome video !

December 30, 2016 at 03:25 AM · Oren, if you're ever in Ottawa, I would love to hear your instrument. Vice Versa, I frequent the botanic garden and Montreal, and would love to hear your instrument there too.

The violin from the picture suspiciously looks so similar to my contemporary violin. I mean, the purfling, pegbox and f holes are different, but still looks very similar.

December 30, 2016 at 07:49 AM · I played a single YVN500S violin (the current high-level offering with their A.R.E. technology) at NAMM last year that was pretty darned good. Their carbon fiber bows didn't take in the US market either but they played very well too. I think Yamaha is certainly capable of producing decent violins and bows with the application of the things they've learned in their research.

What is a shame is that their student-line instruments just don't cut it. Any decent violin shop that has a workshop collaboration in China or in Eastern Europe is cranking out instruments of the same caliber for half the cost. At the shop I frequent, their China-produced workshop instruments below $1000 absolutely crush ALL of Yamaha's offerings, it's not even a close fight. Sound, response, neck thickness, etc...

Yamaha violins have basically ended up as the high-end of the rental fleet for mostly-band-focused music stores that don't have luthiers on staff. Their biggest sin is using heavy wood tailpieces with four large heavy lever-style fine tuners that absolutely choke any potential their instruments might have to generate any reasonable vibration at all. It might have cost a few bucks more per instrument to include a Wittner tailpiece (or a copy of their own making) with integrated fine tuners but it would have made a huge difference in the final product.

It's very surprising, considering how good say, Yamaha's clarinets are.

December 30, 2016 at 01:56 PM · Hi Steven, im often in Ottawa due to work, what a beautiful city ! Especially the Tulip festival.

Hi Gene, I somewhat agree with you when it comes to the newer student violins they are issuing, I've sampled a few and although the tone was beautiful, the setup could have been better. Unfortunately locally most shops are more specialized in guitars and pianos, violins take a level of specialization that is increasingly hard to find.

Chinese violins, especially those from Eastman I played recently are pretty hard to beat.

December 30, 2016 at 09:04 PM · From the photos, I'm not noticing anything remarkable about that fiddle.

From the video of the making process, I'm also not noticing anything remarkable about the skill or training of the makers or setup people.

Haven't ever played one, or heard one live, so maybe something stands out there?

January 1, 2017 at 12:58 AM · New pics after a fantastic setup, what a very sweet sounding instrument

Knilling planetary pegs, I am sold on these things forever, play violin, never have a tuning issue ...

home with an old friend and a new one

January 1, 2017 at 01:44 AM · Congratulations on your new violin!

Now, get yourself a decent sushi and a bottle of sake.

Happy New year!

January 1, 2017 at 02:09 AM · Banzai !!!

January 1, 2017 at 02:24 AM · The $5000 Yamaha I heard when my customer brought it in was anything but what I would call sweet!! Excessively bright would be more like it, well balanced otherwise, powerful, loud, maybe. The customer ended up preferring and purchasing a hand made 1916 Swedish violin with a much sweeter sound for about the same price. Of course the full retail value of the Swedish violin would have been closer to $10,000 so maybe its not a fair comparison.

January 1, 2017 at 02:30 AM · Hi Lyndon, guese I got a good one !

Happy new year everyone !!!

January 1, 2017 at 02:34 AM · Another "brand" to watch for in pawn and violin shops is "Conn." Conn instruments have been know for wind instruments (band instruments) bu I understand that following the Civil War Conn started selling violins too and by the early 20th century he had actually "imported" some superior Italian violin makers who plied their trade in this country.

I found one from the 1920s in a pawn shop for $600 about 10 years ago and linked it up with a violin dealer. Only after that did I learn the history of that brand and the value of the instruments.

ref: http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=11129

January 1, 2017 at 04:01 AM · Evahs, with a ? G string? Is that an Evah Gold G?

January 1, 2017 at 04:52 AM · I tried it on another violin and it has a rounder tone than the regular silver G-String, I like it ... not a usual combo but suits me

January 1, 2017 at 06:49 AM · It's looking good!

Happy New Year!

Uhmm... question! You have geared pegs AND a fine tuner on the E? Any reason for that?

January 1, 2017 at 07:09 AM · The knilling pegs will actually slip very quickly when 'unlocked to retune' especially tuning down. The E is the most dramatic so I usually have to keep it 'semi locked' which means Peg pushed in and grinding to pitch.

Fine tuner makes things easier, I got the idea to keep it from Fein Violins, he make a good point on keeping the fine tuner, also dealing with these tunerswhen you live in a cold climate.

http://blog.feinviolins.com/2011/12/wittner-finetune-pegs.html

January 5, 2017 at 07:57 PM · An update for a few, Violin is back in the shop today to tweak the fingerboard. I realized that this violin had almost never been played so the things I assumed would be there from a proper 'purchase setting up' had never been done, the nut was way too high among other small issues.

After playing it for almost a week and putting it in an environment with proper humidity I'm starting to hear it open up, it helps that the string set in as well.

Sound wise this instrument has a very loud and responsive (aggressive) character, with a sweet melodic tint to it all (highs are clear, lows are boomy). I started it off with a bit of Paganini as I thought ... well it's based off a Guarneri. Will try to post a video when I get it back. Caprice 13 went well, very nice sound.

It reminds me of another Guarneri 'type' instrument I've played recently, A high end Franz Sandner model, also a maginificent instrument.

Once again, if you come across a V-30 or V-60 give it a twirl ! Mine is a keeper for now

January 6, 2017 at 01:43 AM · Sounds like it would be perfect for playing in Church with the choir, piano, and band since it has a built in pickup. I will have to call around town and see if anyone has one.

January 6, 2017 at 04:14 AM · Hi ! no inbuilt pup on mine

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